Dear Church Family
This is the 5th time we have spent Mothering Sunday together! It also marks another anniversary because Mothering Sunday last year was the first Sunday when we were unable to meet due to COVID. It is sad that twice in a row the very service where we would love to be together to celebrate Family in all its’s aspects, we have not been able to share together in person. The PCC meet on Monday and we hope to settle on a date when we will return to meeting together and it will not be long now!
Over the years we have explored how the tradition began. It had nothing to do with celebrating Motherhood but rather about seeing the church as a centre of a family of faith.
In the past I have reminded us that the original festival was a time when it was thought to be a good idea to visit your cathedral as the mother church of the diocese. Another practice was to see it as a time when you went back to the church where you were baptised.
Then the Victorians invented the card industry and it was not long before cards were being sent to Mothers.
You can now get them for grandmothers and great grandmothers.
I attach a picture of a lovely card made for Carol by two of our grandchildren (the two in the picture)
It is never a bad idea to thank God for good things and no one deserves thanks more than mothers because of the love, care and hard work that they put in to bringing up children.
It is good to reflect again on all the things that make a family a family and on the way in which someone becomes a member of a family.
There are fifteen members of what sociologists would call my nuclear family.
We have actually added two during COVID year!
Even in a nuclear family folks come into it in different ways. 43 years ago there was only me. After marriage four of these people were added by birth into the family over the next 12 years. Ten years after that; three wonderful ladies were added by marriage. One more was added by being born to my oldest son and daughter in law. Carol was added when she married me. Another son was born to my oldest son. Then another one born into a different family but added to ours by adoption. Three more grandchildren have been added since then. I still look forward to a first cuddle with my latest grandchild as soon as regulations allow!
So, if today is about the family of the church, the family of faith, God’s family then we reflect on what the scripture says about how we become full members of that family.
An old chorus goes like this.
Father Abraham has many sons
Many sons has father Abraham
And I should know because I am one of father Abrahams sons.
Paul in his letters stressed that this is not about being born a Jew but about becoming a Jew by faith. There are a couple of really vital biblical words that speak into this. I want to reflect briefly on each of those words. The first comes from the gospel of John
John 3 verse 16
(Joh 3:16) For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.
It is important to know what Jesus meant by believe. The book of James makes it clear that it is not believing about. He says even the devil believes in God. I can believe for example that the number 19 bus goes from Tollerton to Melton Mowbray but I have never actually done it. When we take a bus we surrender one freedom. That Freedom is the freedom to walk where we choose. We sacrifice it for another freedom; the freedom to get where we want to go and to place our trust in a driver to get us there. The biblical word ‘Pistos’ for believe carries that extra meaning. So a better translation would be.
Whoever believes and places their trust in Jesus to take them on a journey they could not travel without him will have that eternal life. It is that act of getting on the bus, of transferring trust to Jesus, that actually makes us Christians.
The other word comes from Ephesians.
(Ephesians 2:8) For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.
Grace is about receiving a gift. The oft quoted definition based on an acronym of Grace is
GOD’s RICHES AT CHRIST’S EXPENSE.
Our place in the Christian family is offered to us as a gift. Just as no one had to pay to be members of my 15 strong nuclear family, so no one has to pay to be part of the family of Christ.
The entry fee has been paid already by Jesus. Over the next few weeks the story of how he did that will be retold as we approach Easter.
We thank God that we are part of the family.
That we have come to believe and trust in him.
That we have accepted the free gift of eternal life.
Lord we bless you and thank you that we are part of a family 2 billion strong across the world. Help us to be full members of that family and to always be ready to encourage others to join.
May God bless and keep you all.